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Inhaling steadily, exhaling gently into the fieriness of developing Manzanita skin and glistening like Mountain Mahogany. 

I’m excited to let you know that my work is in two locations for the Terrain Biennial, running from October 1 - November 15, 2023. The first, is a project that’s been simmering for a while. I’ve been spending time in an alley near my house, it’s a gap like many gaps in Los Angeles. It’s a passageway for coyote, skunk, opossum and people. Elderberry, Mountain Mahogany, and Peach hang over the fence providing food and shelter for birds, squirrels and rats. The soil that gathers on the concrete wall under the Elderberry creates the nook for ants and spiders to do their work. When it rains, the water flows to create a creek that runs to the drain near the street. To witness the tenacious California Morning Glory coming up through a few inches of soil, despite the concrete underneath, is humbling.

I’ve written three poems that are engraved on brass metal plaques and mounted to the fences. The poems acknowledge the beauty of this place. They have been created with gratitude and respect for the Tongva and their care of this land over many years past, present and future.

MINDING THE GAP in Los Angeles, California


The second is artwork that is part of a collaboration with myself and two Wales-based artists, Roz Moreton, and Siân Barlow. In the last few months we have been on Zoom calls with each other in drawing sessions led by Roz Moreton. Many of the self-portraits shown in Terrain were created during, or inspired by, our sessions together.

For Terrain, we are hosting one another's self-portraits outsde in front of our homes. By hosting one another's self-portraits, we are acknowledging that our conversations act as mirrors, and that the conversations and the connections we have made with one another hold meaning. These recent years have felt like civilizational thresholds, as well as personal thresholds in each of our lives. Engaging with kindness, and being witnessed by each other, we have been able to move towards seeing ourselves with more clarity.

We are inspired by these words from Audre Lorde: “The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives”. Audre Lorde, Poetry is Not a Luxury (1977)

It is in the long work of self-scrutiny that we can find the deeper material of our dreams, our fears, our desires; and can see clearly our own pain, and within that pain our beauty. And through this work we are gathering courage, to find ways forward both in our work as artists, and in playing our part locally to bring about positive change in our communities. MIRRORING in Wales, Uk and Los Angeles, California

Roz Moreton self-portraits on display at 13 Furnace Terrace, Pontyberem, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA15 5AE, Wales, UK Roz Moreton is a Visual Artist living and working in Carmarthenshire. Her health issues including chronic migraines, Ehlers Danos Syndrome (EDS), and her neurodiversity influence how she approaches her creative practice. Exploring elements of the emotional and the physical, she observes, records and captures the human imprinting of our natural and man-made landscapes. Instagram: @rozmoreton

Siân Barlow used to work as a healthcare advocate, more recently she's changed direction and become an artists. She makes work about how we are, and how we could be, preferring to ask questions, leaving answers open. Instagram: @sian_barloww

And my own self-portrait.

It’s Thursday and I’m alone at the art gallery that’s connected to the library. I’ve just returned some books, picked up a few books and made my way into the show. I’m impressed at how much of the wall space isn’t used, the way the light streams in, and how high the ceiling feels on this particular day. There are two video artists that draw me in before I make my way to the front door. As I approach the door, my hand starts to pull the large metal handle, the bird slams into the glass, bounces back into the air, lifts their body up and spirals over the roof. My breath goes in and I hold it while I watch their body hurling. Both of us stunned and one of us, possibly, very badly hurt. My eyes focus on the building, it’s made of white painted concrete and a lot of glass. Walls turn into windows that turn into more walls and there’s a glass door, propped open, that leads to an outdoor courtyard with the sculpture of a large black head on a pillar. I exhale. If designed right, this open door could be the way in for this bird. And out. I mean a door for this bird, if they wanted, to join this someone, who’s alone, in the gallery connected to the library. And maybe they would sit, taking in the art, chatting in a way that only this bird and this person can. Or quietly, together, watching the video of an artist stitch words into a long cloth on a mountain. Or maybe they would take to the wide open floor to move their bodies, without shoes, in the sunlight, reminding each other that it’s going to be ok. In the way that only this bird and this person can.

Bird in the Glass : 6 x 6 inches : nettle and oak gall ink that will fade, May 2023

This month, I had the pleasure of contributing to the Love for Analogue Stories for my dear friends at Baum-Kuchen.


I’m Jen Herzig Smith and I create ink and art with plants from my garden. I live in the beautiful Northeast Los Angeles community of Eagle Rock on Tongva land. There are a few mugwort leaves under my pillow. I’m especially fond of the daily tools I use, like MD notebooks and two LAMY fountain pens. I love the wildness in the garden, the work that I do and have a few stories to share.


As I’m still waking up, I crack open the door. Lily, the dog, takes one sniff, makes a u-turn and goes back to bed. I’ve been drawn by an urgent high pitch chirp coming from the large elderly deodar cedar that shades the garden. Initially it sounds like one voice. As I stop and listen I can hear another kind of chirping close by, faintly. And another. And another. Beyond those voices is a full chorus of chattering young birds harmonizing with the rushing freeway in the distance. It’s still dark outside. The candle is lit, at both ends, as the rest of the family sleeps. I make my way into the garden and Lily is suddenly there, in search of lizards. I start to notice what’s going on this morning. The poppies are a little taller. For the first time, there are purple flowers on stems jutting out from under the bottom of the black sage. Near the soap plant is the tiniest of mushrooms peeking up in the middle of the path. There is a hummingbird nest on the tip of a cedar branch, swaying just above the hummingbird sage. The slight breeze reminds me that I have skin. I walk over to the porch and pull out my poetry notebook.

MD notebook with Frame. The border is just enough to keep the writing in.

The snap pad is a new tool for me. I’m enjoying the ease and flexibility that it offers.


As I walk with the kind man, who makes medicine with plants, I’m focusing on what I can learn. Taking in every word as we make our way along the trail. There are four of us. Another woman carrying a young baby, the man and me. He doesn’t say much, except to point out certain plants along the way and explain a little bit about each one. The soil beneath our feet is a medium shade of reddish brown. California plantain dots the fields that surround us. I’m camping with a large group of people. Many of them I don’t know. I was invited by a friend and decided that it could be fun to camp in the Sequoia’s with my kids for a week. This kind of gathering of people isn’t something I seek out. In fact, being with a bunch of people that I don’t know is a bit frightening. As we walk, the man and the other woman start talking. My mind wanders and when I come back into the conversation I hear him say that women don’t listen anymore. It takes me by surprise and I also recognize that what he’s saying is filled with wisdom, not spite. I start thinking about when I was younger, and how I would listen more and speak less. And how it’s more difficult now. I share this with him and he nods his head up and down with a hmmm. We continue on our way, walking quietly back to camp.

I am reminded everyday with my customized Traveler’s notebook.


I notice nettle showing up in the garden. This particular nettle loves the area by the chicken coop, near the fence that lines the neighbors concrete driveway. This part of the garden soaks in the sun from the West. The cedar branches, that are old and large, sit way up high, unable to provide respite from the intense afternoon heat. When I’ve seen nettle on trails in California, the leaves are huge, often bigger than my hand and the height of the plant is at least up to my waist. The nettles that I notice in our yard are much smaller. They send themselves out far and thin. As I bring more native plants into the garden, I decide to replace the small (dwarf) nettle with California nettle. Although I chuckle a little at how this sounds redundant, in my heart I know that it’s essential. Replacing dwarf nettle with California nettle is a little gift that the earth needs right now. Along with other kinds of seeds, I sprinkle nettle seeds into their own tray before planting them in the ground. California nettle is one of the first of the green sprouts to peek through the soil, in their own tray and many of the other trays they’ve hopped into. The nettle is so abundant that I plant them in all different parts of the garden, where they are now thriving. This particular nettle loves the morning sun from the east along with nuzzling the base of the cedar tree near our driveway.

Nettle brings beautiful color to the papers that I use in my work. The smallest MD notebook is the perfect size for one swatch of ink with a note on the other page.

Text and photos by: Jen Herzig Smith

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